What is relationship anxiety and what can help?

Samantha Redgrave-Hogg
By Samantha Redgrave-Hogg,
updated on May 9, 2023

Couple on bench looking away from each other

Do they even love me? Are they losing interest? What do they even see in me, anyway? Do you often ask yourself these questions? Are you ambushing your relationship with anxious thoughts? You may have relationship anxiety

Who hasn’t felt anxious from time to time about their relationship? I have! But for some of us, it takes over. Sometimes this worry can become so intense it stops the relationship from reaching its full potential. Or from actually taking off in the first place. You feel brokenhearted without anything even happening. What’s driving this anxiety and how can you overcome it?

What is relationship anxiety?

Relationship anxiety is the experience of worry and doubt in a relationship, even when it is a healthy one. If your partner is showing red flags such as gaslighting, controlling behaviours, love bombing, lying, or a lack of communication - this is not relationship anxiety. But if your partner is consistently respectful, trustworthy, and considerate of your feelings and you still feel an ongoing sense of worry or concern that something bad will happen, this could be a sign of relationship anxiety.

Why do I have relationship anxiety?

Relationship anxiety can stem from fear: a fear of abandonment, getting hurt again, intimacy, not being good enough, or being misled. If you’ve had difficult relationships in the past, you can feel anxiety even in the most healthy relationships. This anxiety can originate in early childhood attachments and can be an indicator of an insecure attachment style. Chartered clinical psychologist and Counselling Directory member, Dr Chancy Marsh talks about the rocky road of relationships and the pitfalls of vulnerability in her article Attachment and relationships.

“Becoming emotionally close to another person can be a journey in itself; trying to stay close over the passage of time can be even harder.”

She highlights the way we can sometimes unconsciously repeat the relationship blueprints from our early years. The way we communicate in our current relationships stems from our early relationships, “As adults, we would have a style of interacting with others; this will include how affectionate we are, how open we can be, and how easy it is to trust people… All of these ways of being will have some roots in our earlier relationships”.

What are the signs of relationship anxiety?

There may be some underlying or unconscious causes of relationship anxiety, such as:

  • avoiding commitment
  • sabotaging the relationship
  • worrying they will betray you
  • continually analysing their feelings towards you
  • doubting your compatibility
  • worrying about things that haven’t happened yet
  • overthinking your partner’s words
  • needing constant reassurance
Relationship anxiety does not dismiss unhealthy or abusive behaviours. It’s also not about tolerating a relationship that isn't right for you. It is an intense worry that your partner may hurt you when there is no evidence to suggest that.

How can I overcome relationship anxiety?

If you are on the verge of sabotaging your relationship, there may be some things you can do to combat these insecurities and doubts.

Allow vulnerability

As a hypnotherapist, I used to say to my clients that their biggest strength is their vulnerability. I still believe this. In a healthy relationship, there should be space to show your innermost feelings. It might be that it’s not the relationship that is causing anxiety but the fear of being vulnerable. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in a relationship not only helps to build trust and connection, but it’s also a way to honour your truest self. Being authentically yourself is part of the journey to a deeper sense of contentment.

Seek help

Sometimes working with a professional can really help us navigate the low-self esteem attached to relationship anxiety. Working with a counsellor, life coach, or hypnotherapist to create effective coping strategies can prevent lasting wounds to the relationship. We can sometimes think that leaving a relationship is the only way out of the anxiety. But getting the right kind of support can help you assess the right way forward for your relationship. Therapy or counselling can be on a one-to-one basis or with your partner.

Relationship counsellor and Counselling Directory member, Jennifer Warwick, explains more about relationship counselling, why people seek therapy for their relationships, and how talking with a relationship counsellor can help reduce anxiety in this video below.

Be mindful

I want to say try not to get too swept up with repetitive thoughts, but it might sound a bit clichéd. Instead, I’ll say you can still validate your feelings and understand that your thoughts are not part of you. You are not your thoughts. Anxious thoughts are not facts, just mental stories we tell ourselves based on fear. Mindfulness is a great way to separate yourself from the mind chatter, focusing instead on the here and now. Separating yourself away from the fear of the future can bring about a sense of ease… this will help you savour the lovely, secure moments with your partner too.

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